My aim in this article, is to try and convince those Bolton fans who are disinterested, unsure, sceptical or simply hostile about either the merits of having a supporters trust (ST) or indeed its current direction, that, in fact, there is still a very good reason to join.
At this point I should say that whilst I've obviously got membership, I don't have any formal dealings with BWFCST, this article is my opinion and is not at the behest of the ST steering committee.
I do think that, on the whole, the Steering committee have done a good job so far, but that's not going to convince a single person to join. So my aim is to play ‘devil's advocate' and base this on the negative views that I have seen on social media.Firstly a heads up on deadlines and mandates; The membership registration deadline for joining BWFCST, in time to take part in the forthcoming board elections, is set for this coming Monday 09 May 2016.
For the cost of just £10, you will have the right to both vote for who you wish to represent members on the future BWFCST board or indeed position yourself to be one of those up for election.
A deadline has to be set so that the steering committee have a confirmed list of eligible members to take part in the election process.The mandate for the supporters trust is;‘...a democratic, not-for-profit organisation of supporters, committed to strengthening the voice for the supporters in the decision making process at a club and the community it serves'.
Given the utter chaos that has reigned over our club off field this past eight months or so, I'm sure the vast majority of you would've liked to know exactly what was going on and, if possible, have a say in how to take things forward. Indeed, just providing a conscience or applying fan pressure to change some of the club board's wilder decisions, will be better than sitting on the outside not knowing what the hell is going on.
A supporter's trust is the only legal organisation that fans can use to buy into a club to have that kind of influence, other than a supporter having a piggy bank large enough to actually buy into the club that is.So, after the euphoria of the inaugural meeting on the 6th January, where over 6000 fans showed there intent to join, a time when the club was at the height of crisis, I think it fair to say that fan interest has since waned in the ST.
The last I heard was that around 2000 fans had swapped intent for actual membership. The sale of our club to the Sports Shield consortium may explain some of the reduced interest, as some fans may think that the crisis has passed.
The following, based on views I've seen, may account for some other fans opinions.
Our expectation was that the aim of the ST was to get the structure of the trust set up and then hold elections. End of! An unelected board without an approved mandate have veered away from what was expected and gone off and ‘done their own thing'. The ST have let the whole process ‘go to their heads' in trying to buy the club ‘on the cheap' before fans have had chance to voice their opinion.
We don't want a group of fans and local businesses to run our club like Portsmouth. In our view this will mean that Bolton will never have the finance or board experience/background to compete with other clubs of similar size. Bolton Wanderers will be condemned to an eternity of lower league football.
The local business owners backed by the ST are ‘in collusion' with the Gartside era board e.g. because they were on the school trust board with Gartside. That would mean the new owners having the same people working alongside them as the old owner.So what is my view on the above and the argument against these accusations? Well whilst I think some of the accusations are without foundation or any basis in reality, others I can fully understand, even if I don't agree with them.
Whilst I think that the ST has always tried to operate in the best interests of both the club and the fans that support it, I understand the cynicism. I could argue against these views, or ask the ST to respond on LOVS but those arguments are already in progress elsewhere and as I'm about to show, are actually irrelevant to this article. Here's why: The ST have set up the basic structure of a supporters trust.
They are legally required to hold democratic, one person, one vote elections for the future board members. Those board members will operate to a mandate agreed by their members. If you don't like the direction in which they eventually go, you can vote them out after every two years.
Here's the point; it's now irrelevant what has happened during the steering groups' tenure, as they have setup the basic structure that everyone wanted last January.
The elections will ensure that the fans decide how the ST will operate going forward. But as the saying goes, ‘you've got to be in it, to win it'. BWFCST is the best option us fans have got to impact on what happens to our club going forward, so if you feel strongly about how the ST should be run and who should be on it, join and have your vote.
Even better, if you feel you have the time and skills, join and put yourself forward for election. The ST needs a membership and indeed a board that reflects the diversity of its supporters.
This is particularly aimed at those of you who are lucky enough to be under 35, as we need youth, who are the clubs future after all, having their say. The ST will be all the stronger for it and that can only be to the benefit of every fan who has the best interests of Bolton wanderers at heart.
So, no excuses, get signed up and have your say.